English Language Learners Stack Exchange is a question and answer site for speakers of other languages learning English. Join them; it only takes a minute:

Sign up
Here's how it works:
  1. Anybody can ask a question
  2. Anybody can answer
  3. The best answers are voted up and rise to the top
  • A chinese-backed company
  • A china expert
  • A chinese expert

What is the difference between these? What does each of them mean?

share|improve this question

migrated from english.stackexchange.com Mar 17 '14 at 22:59

This question came from our site for linguists, etymologists, and serious English language enthusiasts.

A china expert knows about plates, cups and saucers. – Oldcat Mar 17 '14 at 22:31
@Oldcat: or is made of porcelain. – TimLymington Mar 17 '14 at 22:35
Context is everything. – choster Mar 17 '14 at 23:25

Let's look at each of them individually, because they're all addressing rather different things:

We'll start with "a china expert":
As noted in the comments, "china" can refer to a variety of things. Capitalization is the important part here: "china" is the porcelain, but "China" is the country.
This means that "a china expert" is usually "an expert on (about) china/China". They know a lot about either "plates, cups, and saucers" (which would be about the porcelain), or they know a lot about China as a country - the culture, its people, the landscape and so on.

Next up, "a Chinese expert":
This, again, has two possible meanings depending on context. On the one hand, this could be a Chinese expert (the stress being on "Chinese") - meaning an expert from China. On the other, it could also be "an expert on Chinese", so someone with great knowledge of the Chinese language.

Finally, "a chinese-backed company":
This one is fairly simple. First of all, it's a company - not a single person. While all the other examples could also be applied to groups or organizations, they're usually about individual people. This is explicitly a company.
"Chinese-backed" also means that it is supported or funded by Chinese people - investors, owners, supporters, or donors. Here, the "Chinese" part of the phrase is unrelated to what the company does, or is an expert in. It's just about who's standing behind them.

share|improve this answer

There are two ways to understand the word Chinese: as an adjective meaning "of, from, or related to China," and as a noun meaning "one or more Chinese people." Native English speakers may use the adjective Chinese when they really mean the noun China, just as they may (and often do) use the adjective corporate when they really mean the noun corporation—as in "corporate-sponsored" versus "corporation-sponsored," where the intended meaning is "sponsored by one or more corporations."

In your example, at least, the avoidable ambiguity between the adjective Chinese and the noun Chinese gives you an additional reason not to use the adjective Chinese if what you mean is "backed by China or by one or more companies based in China." That is the essential meaning of "a China-backed company," which you don't list as an option, but which is a better choice than "a Chinese-backed company," unless the idea you want to convey is "a company backed by one or more Chinese people.

The commenters responding to your question are jesting with you. Their joke turns on the difference between china (spelled with a lowercase c, and meaning "glazed dishware or porcelain objects") and China (spelled with a capital C, an meaning either the huge country on the mainland of Asia or the smaller country on the island formerly known as Formosa and currently called Taiwan. Assuming that the expert you have in mind specializes in one or both nations of China, the phrase you should use is "a China expert."

On the other hand, if the idea you want to express is that of a person who happens to be of Chinese origin and is an expert in, say, baccarat or Victorian literature or Star Wars collectables, then the phrase you should use is "a Chinese expert."

share|improve this answer

Your Answer


By posting your answer, you agree to the privacy policy and terms of service.